Advocates: Help Make BART’s Rush Hour “Bikes On Board” Pilot a Success

[Update: BART released a video explaining the bikes-on-board rush hour pilot.]

BART announced a pilot last week to lift the ban on bikes aboard rush-hour trains each Friday in August. The news is cause for celebration among bike advocates, who are calling upon bike-toting passengers to help make the pilot a success by setting a good example with courteous behavior. If the pilot proves successful, BART could move toward removing more blackout periods.

Photo: ## Johnson/Flickr##

“Today we have a chance to win full-time access, something we have been working on for years,” said East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera in a post last week explaining the etiquette for bringing bikes on board. Both the EBBC and the SF Bike Coalition are searching for volunteers to help inform BART riders about the upcoming pilot and monitor how it works.

BART staff will evaluate whether to expand or end the pilot based on “feedback from riders, both cyclists and non-cyclists, and an analysis of operational issues, such as the amount of time a train remains at each station to accommodate bicycle boarding,” the agency said in a statement.

Of course, the rest of BART’s rules will still apply: No bikes will be allowed on the first car of a train, and riders must still avoid blocking doors, squeezing onto crowded cars, and causing delays in any way.

“BART’s pilot project follows the lead of the New York subway. In New York, bikes are allowed, with the caveat for passengers to be courteous and to use common sense,” BART board member Robert Raburn said in a statement.

The pilot is a promising sign of BART’s commitment to implementing its new bike plan, which aims to double bike-to-BART ridership within ten years. Although BART management has long resisted reducing blackout periods, advocates and agency staff say there’s a more open attitude under the new general manager, Grace Crunican.

BART said any permanent lifting of blackout periods will have to be approved by its board of directors.

  • Anonymous

    How about taking the seats out of a couple of train cars like Caltrain does?

  • Anonymous

    BART shuffles its cars around a lot, unlike Caltrain, so it would be a lot harder for them to keep consistent “bike car” positioning.

  • Anonymous

    Having been dealing with my bike on Bart a lot recently, here are my suggestions (in addition to, of course, letting bikes on at all times):

    1) Need more of the wide fare gates so that bikes can fit through. There usually is just one per set of fare gates, and it often is going the other way. And the gates need to have longer timing before slamming shut so your bike doesn’t get annoyingly jammed in it when the gate closes on it half way through. This is also very helpful for those with luggage, strollers, etc. I suggest they even make them a little wider than they are now (with panniers or a large basket or other cargo on your bike, it can still be tricky getting through those fare gates, especially when you are rushing because there are people behind you or the train is pulling up).

    2) They *have* to allow bikes on the escalators. It is ridiculous making a cyclist carry their bikes up those enormous flights of stairs. You cannot possibly except anybody but the young and fit to do that … and even then, it’s a massive pain. I can’t even imagine my poor mother in law, who loves to ride everywhere, having to carry her bike up one of those sets of stairs. Especially if carrying a bunch of cargo where everything can easily weight 40 lbs.

    3) Need a way to stabilize the bikes on the cars. If you are riding Bart for more than 5-10 minutes, it sucks having to try to prevent the bike from flying all over. Can’t they add bungee cords like Caltrain? In the meantime, I’ve taken to bringing my own bungee cord which I can use to strap the bike onto the silver railings.

    4) As @saimin:disqus said, they need to take out some more seats. Some cars are good, but some are way to cramped. But I think ultimately Bart does need to have a bike car like Caltrain. @aslevin:disqus : you are right that Bart shifts their cars around more than Caltrain, but they can learn to make sure they always have a bike car in the right stop just like Caltrain did. It will be a little more complicated because Bart has different size trains, but they can just make the rule be it’s always, say, the 2nd car from the rear of the train. But if they really want to increase the number of cyclists to the levels they are talking about, a designated bike car is the best way.

  • Jwbaker

    I don’t really see how this can work, much as I find the bike blackout annoying. The trains are just to crowded at rush hour to accommodate an bikes at all. The existing riders barely fit.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is true for some trains, but I have definitely been on many trains during the blackout period where there was plenty of room for bicycles, especially towards the edges of the blackout period. If nothing else, they could at least narrow the blackout period.

  • Anonymous

    Tie the bike to the railing with your helmet.

  • J Portman

    Bike’s aren’t allowed on escalators. News to me… oops.

  • Anonymous

    There are elevators in every station

  • Anonymous

    Agree on the escalators.  It’s not safer to walk your bike up the stairs, it’s differently unsafe. You just need to know how to hold your bike on the escalator. 

    On the bungee cords, BART has shorter “dwell times” at stations than Caltrain does. So it would be harder for them to have a system where people need to un-bungee (and unstack).  One idea is some “free area” and some vertical stacking area where the bikes are on hooks.  The vertical is harder for smaller/older/less fit people, but is better for space.

  • Anonymous

    New York City allows bikes at all times, and their subways are more crowded than BART. They rely on people using good sense about when to get on a car, and when to wait for the next train, and it works fine. BART currently relies on people using  good sense when they have big luggage or strollers. They just have different rules for different bulky objects.

  • Charles_Siegel

     The rationale for not allowing bikes on escalators is that there could be a power failure that causes the escalator to stop suddenly, which could make someone drop a bike on the people below. 

    Likewise, they ask people to hold the handrails when they ask use the escalator so they won’t fall in case of a sudden power failure.

    There are elevators in every BART station.

  • Anonymous

    @BBnet3000:disqus and @0c6a1ba3c059e75968ce271f4ea79d78:disqus There is no way every bicyclist on a train, especially if Bart is trying to double the number of cyclists, can take the elevator without waiting forever. That is ridiculous to expect cyclists to have to take a tiny elevator designed for pedestrians and which are often out or service. It is *much* easier to just allow cyclists to take the escalator.

    @0c6a1ba3c059e75968ce271f4ea79d78:disqus I have never heard of this power failure thing. Do you have any evidence for this? This seems like a very unreasonable concern. Most cyclists set their bike down on the escalator and don’t hold it, so it’s no different than somebody have luggage or a stroller on the escalator. As @aslevin:disqus pointed out, it is completely contradictory (and biased) that Bart acts like bicycles are any different than any other bukly object. This policy of banning bikes on escalators is hypocritical, irrational, and unreasonable and needs to be relegated to the annals of anachronistic policy that discriminates against cyclists. Luckily, I’m getting the feeling that Bart is starting to realize this ….

  • Adrienne Johnson

    What I always find to be more difficult is that I board when the train is empty in Richmond and then get completely penned in, unable to get off until Glen Park. As that was where I wanted to go anyway it was OK, but there were several times when BART PD wanted me off at Embarcadero during the PM black out and then changed their minds when they realized what I would have to do to get off. We really need bike priority cars.

  •  The elevators are going to be a non-starter for most. As with any elevator in a transit location, the elevators are intentionally made to run very slowly to discourage able-bodied people from using the elevator so that they are available for people who are on wheelchairs/etc…

    The extra 3-4 minutes caused by waiting for the elevator is yes, enough to discourage mode shift.

  • Problem is, depending on when and where you’re going, that next train could be 15-20 minutes out – much longer of a wait than the NYC subway.

  •  Mark – in theory the best solution is that routes where BART simply does not – REALLY – have capacity to accommodate bikes, that cyclists will self select away from those trains/routes because of the crowds. But runs that aren’t typically crowded, will attract cyclists and thus increase overall ridership or reduce need for increased parking.

  • Indeed, one size does not fit all. A Concord to Lafayette trip during rush hour would obviously work better than a Downtown Oakland to Powell trip.

    I’m really interested to see how things go in August – it really could go either way in terms of public opinion and logistics.

  • Anonymous

     More wide fare gates: yes please. I haven’t had a problem with the timing myself– it’s pretty generous, designed for people with wheelchairs and walkers.

    Your mother in law is probably better off taking the elevator (which should be improved). But in general, bikes on escalators should be allowed. It’s especially annoying when the escalator is uncrowded. I’ll admit to taking the escalator, but I feel like I’m pretty conscious of other people’s comfort. I stand to the right, holding up my bicycle on my right, leaving plenty of room to pass on the left.

    I seem to recall reading that most other transit agencies don’t ban bikes on escalators, without any big problems.

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